Eagle Encounter

_DSC1382Prior to returning to photography full time and while still working as the Director of Design for DASNY (Dormitory Authority of the State of New York) I began commuting by bicycle from my home located in Troy, NY to my office. On most days of the work week, I would set out before dawn on my wife’s re-purposed Schwinn “Sierra Runner” which I had converted into a commuter bike for the 10 or so mile ride down the Hudson River to Albany. My usual route would take me through South Troy, and over one of the area’s best known river crossings, the historic Troy-Menands Bridge. Built in 1933, the main span originally featured two towers (long since removed) that lifted the central span of the bridge to a height of 135’ above the water surface to allow tall ships to pass. Recently, the Troy-Menands Bridge was altered to include a pedestrian/bicycle lane connection to the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail which from this point south runs along the western bank of the Hudson River.

Always a peaceful ride, the section of the bike-hike trail located along the Hudson is particularly enjoyable as it rolls along easy grades and gentle slopes just yards from the river’s tree lined shore. Each morning, oftentimes with the faintest rays of the day’s first light over my shoulder I would approach the westernmost end of the bridge and cross high above the river’s shoreline barely visible below. Swinging first north then south and north again before making a final sweeping turn to the south I silently coasted down the double switchback ramp from the bridge onto the bike-hike path below.

Some mornings the beam of my headlamp would expose a small group of deer grazing on nearby grasses or a rabbit would scurry from the brush and dart across the path just ahead of my beacon as I arched through one or the other of the switchback turns. This particular morning however held no such drama, or so I thought.

On this particular Fall morning I remember a “stillness” in the air, and the soft “snapping” sound as my 1.75” x 26” tires rolled over dried leaves scattered on the asphalt paved path. Propelling myself forward up a slight rise while crossing under the bridge the rapid and rhythmic “tick, tick, tick, tick, tick…”sound of the freewheel faded into the dawn as I applied pressure to the cranks, crested the rise and accelerated down the other side of the incline. Perhaps it was the sound, or the movement that first caught my attention… I’m really not certain… but as I glided across the smooth pavement just beyond the tree line and very near the river’s edge I sensed something moving in the dim morning light.

Looking to my left there it was fifteen or twenty feet at most above the still, glass like surface of the Hudson… a bald eagle wings stretched wide gliding silently in the pink light of dawn! Appearing to match my speed and direction the eagle and I moved along on more or less parallel courses as we “soared” silently through the cool early morning air. As I marveled at this magnificent creation, warm orange light from the rising sun dramatically illuminated the streamlined torso, tail and enormous wings of this beautiful bird. Each fine movement and subtle adjustment of tail and wingtip feathers clearly visible as the eagle maintained a steady course. Then without warning, and with several flaps of its powerful wings, the eagle broke formation and silently rose up and away while turning east toward the opposite shore.

As I continued south along the bike path to my office and the challenges of the day I watched the eagle steadily move off into the distance and thought to myself how very fortunate I had been and no matter what else happens on this day, today will be a very good day!

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